2020 Tokyo Olympics: Gwen Berry, Who Protested American Flag, Fails to Medal at Games

by Jon D. B.

Hammer thrower Olympian Gwen Berry finished in eleventh of twelve competitors Tuesday with a distance of 71.35 meters.

Despite making near-daily headlines, Gwen Berry will not take home Olympic gold, silver, or bronze. Competing amongst a dozen hammer throwers in the August 3rd finals, Berry’s 71.35 meter distance would land her in eleventh place.

Yet the 32-year-old athlete has been at the forefront of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer. In the time since protesting the American flag & anthem during the Olympic trials medal ceremony in June, where she won bronze, Berry has stood by the “Activist Athlete” shirt she originally held up in protest.

“If you know your history, you know the full song of the national anthem,” Berry told Black News Channel for their interview. “The third paragraph speaks to slaves in America… Our blood being slain … All over the floor.”

Gwen Berry refers to the complete “Star Spangled Banner,” wherein the third verse reads:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The Star Spangled Banner

Gwen Berry Pledges to ‘Represent the Oppressed People’

Just before the 2020 Summer Olympics were to begin, Berry would pledge to “represent the oppressed people” of her nation with a Tokyo win. “That’s been my message for the last three years,” she would add.

Those years began with a protest at the Pan-American Games in 2019. There, she rose her fist on the medals podium during the ceremony.

Then, as a hammer thrower for the U.S. track and field team, Gwen Berry would create controversy by turning away from the American flag in protest on Saturday, June 24, 2021.

Berry says she did not originally plan on protesting during the hammer throwing trials. Instead, the U.S. national anthem began playing unexpectedly after she was told it would not. As a result, she took the chance to “stand against” racial injustice in America by facing away from the flag as the anthem played.

“They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there,” Berry told ESPN at the time. “But I don’t really want to talk about the anthem because that’s not important. The anthem doesn’t speak for me. It never has.”

in her first post-protest interview, Gwen Berry would clarify with: “I never said that I didn’t want to go to the Olympic games, that’s why I competed and got third and made the team. I never said that I hated the country.”

“All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand for or acknowledge something that disrespects them,” Berry said to her critics. “I love my people. Point blank, period.”